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James Alexander Goodson


Major Goodson was a U.S. citizen born in New York City on 21 March 1921 of British parents. He was raised in Toronto, Canada, by his mother following his father's death. In 1939, upon graduation from high school, he had no money but a desire to meet relatives in England, so he decided to go to sea and ship-out as a crew member. He obtained a job aboard an ocean liner as a pantry boy. He made it to England and was able to visit his aunt and uncle in Kent., and then went on to France. He was in Paris when the Germans invaded Poland.

He decided to return to Canada, booking passage on the S.S. Athenia, the last ship to leave Liverpool prior to war being declared. When off the Hebrides, the passenger ship was struck by a torpedo from a German U-Boat. Of the 112 killed, 88 were women and children fleeing the conflict in Europe. Goodson helped with the survivors and then had to swim to a lifeboat.

They were later rescued by a Norwegian tanker, which returned them to Galway, Ireland.
He was so angered by the attack that he immediately enlisted in the RAF. He was sent to the RCAF in Canada to train. Back in Canada, the RCAF gave him flight training in Dunville, Ontario.

After completing his training in the RCAF on 12 May 1941 he was assigned, as a Sergeant Pilot, to the RAF and sent to an Operational Training Unit, flying Hawker Hurricanes. On 6 June 1942 Jim joined his combat squadron, No. 416 (Canadian), flying Spitfires. He saw plenty of action with the squadron, including covering the ill-fated Dieppe landing in August.

On 24 August Jim was transferred to No. 133 (Eagle) Squadron, based at Debden. On 29 September the unit was accepted into the USAAF. Jim was in the 4th Fighter Group, 336th Squadron. As a Lieutenant in the newly formed group he still flew Spitfires until January 1943, when U.S. planes became available. His group switched to P-47 Thunderbolts, a very different plane from the Spitfire, but quite potent in its own right.

With the advent of the P-47 there began a new chapter in the history of the 4th Fighter Group. The increased range of the P-47 allowed victories to start accumulating. Colonel Don Blakeslee, the Group Commander, was not yet satisfied, and fought hard to get the P-51 Mustang for the Group and was finally successful, when in February 1944 the Mustang was introduced into the conflict.

Goodson's first victory, an Fw-190, on 23 June 1943, was followed by many more. He became proficient in shooting down Luftwaffe planes, and soon 15 had found they could not outfight him.

In the meantime, he became known as the "King of the Strafers", wrapping up 15 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground for a tortal of 30 destroyed. The end of his combat with the 4th Fighter Group was not the least unusual. Now a Major and CO of the 336th Squadron, he strafed Neu Brandenburg Airfield in Germany. A 20mm found its mark and he was badly wounded in his legs, but managed to crash-land and hobble off to a nearby wood.

He kept on the run for a week before being captured. He was questioned by the Gestapo and summarily thrown into solitary to be shot the next morning. Jim, who spoke German well, cleverly convinced the SS that he was too valuable to the Reich alive and was transferred to the Luftwaffe's jurisdiction. He was welcomed and duly interrogated by Hanns Scharf, the Luftwaffe's master interrogator. He was assigned to Stalag Luft III, and was greeted by many of his friends who had preceded him.

During the winter of 1944/45, Jim, along with many other POWs were marched across Germany away from the advancing Red Army, finally arriving at a camp near Nuremberg. Then were on the march again, this time toward Moosburg, at which they were finally liberated.

"Goody" had flown combat in Hurricanes, Spitfires, Thunderbolts and Mustangs, and had 30 enemy aircraft to his credit. His decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with eight Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with 20 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Unit Citation, and the Purple Heart.

After the war he married Gwen, his English wartime sweetheart, and earned an MBA from Harvard University. Eventually he became head of two U.S. companies in Europe and later a Vice-President and Group Executive at IT&T. He retired to Duxbury, Massachusetts.



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    Military | Major | Pilot | 4th Fighter Group
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Units served with

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force

    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 4th Fighter Group

    4th Fighter Group

    Some of the pilots of the 4th Fighter Group had seen many hours of combat by the time they joined the 4th Fighter Group as they had volunteered with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. The three 'Eagle Squadrons' of RAF Fighter...

  • 336th Fighter Squadron

    336th Fighter Squadron

    The 336th Fighter Squadron was constituted by the War Department on 22 august 1942, and was activated at Bushey Hall, England, on 12 September. It had been designated as No. 133 (Eagle) Squadron, and was made up of American volunteers to the Royal Air...

  • No 133 'Eagle' Squadron

    No 133 'Eagle' Squadron

    'On 1 August 1941, No. 133 reformed at Coltishall as the third 'Eagle' Squadron manned by American personnel. Equipped with Hurricanes it became operational at the end of September. The next month the Squadron moved to Northern Ireland, returning to...


  • 43-6846

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) strafing mission to Paris area, shot down while strafing Beauvais Airdrome. A/C hit by flak, caught fire and exploded on impact southeast of Le Mesnil-sur-Bulles, France. Pilot 2nd Lt Gerald C...

  • 43-6895 'Hat Jane'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. Flown by Major James A Goodson. Transferred to 354FS, 355FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) from patrol mission, hit by Flak whilst strafing ground targets Nogent-le-Rotrou, France. Pilot Lt Robert D Couture evaded...

  • 44-13303

    P-51 Mustang
    One-time personal aircraft of Major James A Goodson. Shot down by ground fire on 20 June 1944 - Goodson bailed out and became a POW.

  • 42-7959

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Assigned to 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. One-time personal aircraft of Capt James A Goodson. ...

  • BL722 'Sondra Lee IX'

    Supermarine Spitfire BL722 Mk Vb, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. ...

  • 43-2484

    P-51 Mustang
    One-time personal aircraft of Major James Goodson. 336th Fighter Squadron CO Major James Goodson claimed his 14th, and last, aerial victory in this fighter on 25 May 1944.

  • 41-6574 'Miss San Carlos'

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    16-8-43 Destroyed 2 x Fw190's and damaged another over Paris

  • 43-7059

    P-51 Mustang
    Lost 4 June 44 - Lt. Robert L Kakerback KIFA. Castle Camps/ 3mi E.

  • 43-24848 'Flying Dutchman'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. Robert L Gilbert Crew Chief assigned.

  • 41-6244

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Assigned to 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 53FS, 36FG, 9AF USAAF.

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Associated Place

  • Biggin Hill

    Military site : airfield
    An RAF Station with US lodger units. USAAF Spitfires and P-38s were attached to RAF No 11 Group stations in mid-1942 for training; also used for special operations by British and US forces.

  • Duxford

    Military site : airfield
    RAF Duxford, now a museum and still a working airfield, was operated by the USAAF from 1943 to 1945. The base was briefly the home of the 350th Fighter Group in late 1942, but it was not until April 1943 that it became a fully American station when the...

  • Stalag Luft III

    Other location

  • Eagle Squadrons Memorial

    Other location


Event Location Date
Born New York, NY, USA 21 March 1921
Lived in Toronto, ON, Canada 1942
Died Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA 1 May 2014
Buried Massachusetts National Cemetery Bourne, Barnstable County, MA 4 May 2014

Massachusetts National Cemetery
Bourne, Barnstable County, Massachusetts
Plot: Section 54 Site 489


Date Contributor Update
19 December 2021 17:12:28 Al_Skiff Changes to events

Date Contributor Update
22 February 2021 20:57:28 jmoore43 Changes to events

Updated the Born event and Added a Buried event per Find-a-grave Memorial ID 129017267.

Date Contributor Update
11 May 2016 22:13:12 WD-C Mustang Changes to media associations

Associated media already in the database

Date Contributor Update
25 February 2016 13:58:11 Al_Skiff Changes to unit associations and place associations

EAGLES of the RAF - The World War II Eagle Squadrons by Phillip D Caine.

Date Contributor Update
10 November 2015 13:12:11 Al_Skiff Changes to middlename, nickname, biography, awards, unit associations, place associations and mission associations

EAGLES of the RAF - The World War II Eagle Squadrons by Phillip D Caine.

Date Contributor Update
13 March 2015 14:36:52 apollo11 Changes to nickname

Personal research & 'Eighty-One Aces of the 4th Fighter Group' by Frank Speer.

Date Contributor Update
13 March 2015 14:32:56 apollo11 Changes to biography, events and unit associations

Personal research & 'Eighty-One Aces of the 4th Fighter Group' by Frank Speer.

Date Contributor Update
12 March 2015 21:35:12 apollo11 Changes to highest rank, awards, events and place associations

Personal research & 'Eighty-One Aces of the 4th fighter Group' by Frank Speer.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:14:03 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Fighter Aces of the U. S. A. and Mustang Aces of the Eighth Air Force; MACR 6252 / MACR 6252 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database / Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list